Kenny Gray, 4th dan karate

The Oban Times - - Sport - WITH IAIN RODGER

KENNY GRAY’S first ex­pe­ri­ence of mar­tial arts was when he went to Ar­gyll Shukokai be­gin­ners’ class in Oban on an Oc­to­ber evening in 1984. He was one of 40 stu­dents start­ing un­der Sen­sei Nicky Con­nolly. At that time Kenny was look­ing for an­other form of train­ing to com­ple­ment his run­ning, which he was re­ally into at that time. Lit­tle did he know that it would be the in­tro­duc­tion to an ac­tiv­ity that he would still be par­tic­i­pat­ing in 30 odd years later.

Kenny quickly rose through the grades, tak­ing part in com­pe­ti­tions, and at­tend­ing cour­ses and sem­i­nars all over the coun­try. He was at peak fit­ness dur­ing this time, train­ing up to six days a week. Within a few years he found him­self help­ing Sen­sei Con­nolly out with classes, which at that time were very pop­u­lar. It was com­mon to have a be­gin­ners’ class of up to 30 stu­dents. As his knowl­edge in­creased, Kenny was at­tend­ing cour­ses reg­u­larly, run by mar­tial arts le­gends such as Ticky Dono­van, Pat McKay, Geoff Thomp­son, Vic Charles and Davy Coulthard. Closer to home, he was trav­el­ling to Dunoon and Lochgilp­head to train with Iain Sin­clair, and Archie MacAlis­ter in their re­spec­tive classes. While at 1st kyu (brown belt), Kenny started teach­ing around small vil­lages to give those who couldn’t travel into town a chance to learn karate.

In 1991, Kenny reached the grade of 1st dan ( black belt). At this time, due to work com­mit­ments, he had prob­lems at­tend­ing classes in Oban. Work was mostly in the Cri­an­larich/ Killin area and he saw an op­por­tu­nity to start a class there. Within a year or so he had classes in Cal­lan­der, Killin and Tyn­drum, un­der the name of Cen­tral Freestyle Karate. With more than 80 stu­dents train­ing, he had quite a lot on his plate. Kenny gained his 2nd dan in 1995 while at­tached to the UKASKO or­gan­i­sa­tion. Kenny con­tin­ued with this for four years and also ran week­end res­i­den­tial cour­ses dur­ing the sum­mer months, with out­door train­ing and guest in­struc­tors. Th­ese were very pop­u­lar, es­pe­cially when the weather was fine. At this time, he also tried out a few other styles of mar­tial art in­clud­ing judo, and jiu-jitsu un­der var­i­ous in­struc­tors.

In 2004, Kenny re­turned to Oban to train with Ar­gyll Shukokai, tak­ing over the club along with Jim MacKay and Flo McBurnie as Sen­sei Con­nolly had moved to Spain. He gained his 3rd dan in 2007 and con­tin­ued to train and teach in Oban. At this time he was also run­ning a club in Lochawe/ Dal­mally which was a great suc­cess. Over the next few years many changes took place, with Ar­gyll Shukokai be­com­ing Ar­gyll Mar­tial Arts in 2012. Kenny opened a club in In­ver­aray in 2010, which has gone from strength to strength, and the Dal­mally club is still well at­tended, he re­ceived his 4th dan in 2014 along with his sis­ter, Flo McBurnie, who helps run the clubs. There are also have two 2nd dans, An­drew Buchanan and An­drew Law­son, who help with the classes in Oban and In­ver­aray. In all they have well over 60 stu­dents train­ing with them at pre­sent.

Kenny said: ‘My ad­vice for any­one want­ing to try mar­tial arts is, go for it! You have noth­ing to lose, and a lot to gain.

‘I would like to thank Nicky Con­nolly and Archie MacAl­lis­ter (de­ceased), for all the knowl­edge passed on to me over the years. I now look for­ward to reach­ing my 5th dan in the near fu­ture.’

Kenny Gray.

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